COVID commission boss Nev Power has tamped down on calls for a “green recovery”, saying it’s the job of the commission to boost the economy in the short-term.
While the COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board has met with companies proposing renewable projects and has given “considerable support” to most of those companies, its focus is on where the private sector is prepared to invest in the short-term to create jobs and economic growth rather than on a specifically “green” recovery.
“A lot of those projects that we’ve had discussions with are looking for substantial subsidy and support and substantial time frames to get there,” Mr Power, the commission’s chair, told the Senate select committee on COVID-19. “There’s been a lot of conceptual discussion of renewables and their role in recovery, but there [have] been a lot less specific projects put forward that I’m aware of.”
So-called green recoveries have become a new cornerstone of economic policy in a number of countries – including South Korea, France, and Germany – since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. But Mr Power said it was the role of the commission to recommend industries and sectors where Australia has a “comparative advantage” in order to boost the recovery rather than on specific projects.
“Our focus is on the creation of globally competitive, commercially viable businesses where the private sector will invest and lead the recovery by increasing investment in business activity and assets, employing more Australians, generating more product here in Australia rather than importing it,” Mr Power said.
Mr Power and the commission have not been involved in discussions of the government’s fast-tracked 15 major infrastructure projects, a cornerstone of the Morrison government’s recovery plan, but have made recommendations on environmental deregulation – primarily a review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act that would streamline the environmental approvals process.
The commission has previously courted controversy for Mr Power’s role as deputy chair of gas company Strike Energy – a role from which he has now stood aside – and a leaked report from a manufacturing taskforce advising the commission that suggested expanding the domestic gas industry in order to fuel the recovery.